ASOIF calls for broader consultation on biennial FIFA World Cup

The organization representing the interests of all summer Olympic sports has called for increased consultation and engagement from FIFA, with the greater international sports community on the football organization’s plan to stage the World Cup biennially.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Soccer Football - Men - Gold medal match - Brazil v Spain - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - August 7, 2021. Mikel Oyarzabal of Spain scores their first goal. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Soccer Football - Men - Gold medal match - Brazil v Spain - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - August 7, 2021. Mikel Oyarzabal of Spain scores their first goal. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) has issued a statement calling for further consultation and engagement from the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) over the organization’s proposal to stage a World Cup every two years.

ASOIF’s statement warns the proposal pushed by FIFA “could impact the healthy development of sport and also put the sustainability of other international federations’ events at risk.”

The matter is likely of heightened importance to ASOIF as a biennial World Cup could create a seismic shift in the international sports calendar. It would have the potential to force other federation’s marquee events out of prime locations on the calendar, or even complicate the scheduling of the Summer Olympic Games, an event which some ASOIF members are highly dependent on for funding.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - Final - France v Croatia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 15, 2018  France's Hugo Lloris lifts the trophy as they celebrate winning the World Cup  REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - Final - France v Croatia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - July 15, 2018 France's Hugo Lloris lifts the trophy as they celebrate winning the World Cup REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

Those concerns largely mirror those voiced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in October. The IOC cited the impact of the proposal on other sports, gender equality, and athlete welfare as areas of concern, while also calling for increased consultation with stakeholders at the time.

It was originally reported that a vote on the proposal may come as early as next month, but more recent reporting suggests FIFA President Gianni Infantino has backed away from holding a vote on the proposal in the near future.

Infantino’s apparent reversal comes after the proposal received steep criticism from within the international football community. Both the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and the Confederación Sudamericana de Futbol (CONMEBOL) had threatened a boycott of the World Cup if the idea went forward.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez attend an inauguration at the 69th CONMEBOL Ordinary Congress at their headquarters in Luque, Paraguay May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno
FIFA President Gianni Infantino and CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez attend an inauguration at the 69th CONMEBOL Ordinary Congress at their headquarters in Luque, Paraguay May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

The proposal also garnered criticism from one of FIFA’s own sponsors, Adidas. Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted voiced his opinion on the proposal during an interview with Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung stating, “I don’t think much of a football World Cup held every two years. There’s a European Championship here, there’s a Copa América in Latin America. One should also leave space for other things.”

He continued, “I am a passionate football fan … but I think it is important that not only football is shown on television but also biathlon, skiing, tennis or handball. If you push just one product heavily it is not good for any product.”

Infantino responded to criticism of the proposal after a FIFA board meeting in October, saying, “the discussions around our World Cups have provoked some strong reactions. I have heard some critical comments I have heard many enthusiastic comments as well. The discussion is very different in different parts of the world. My objective is to try to bring everyone together, and we must come together.”

He added, “what I have said from the beginning is that we are going to change things only if we are completely convinced that it will be beneficial for everybody. For everybody. If it is beneficial for everybody, I cannot see why people would not agree to it.”

While Infantino appears to have moved away from a vote on the proposal, he has called for a FIFA Summit on December 20, 2021. It is likely a discussion on the proposal and other initiatives aimed at improving and decluttering the international football calendar will be on the agenda.

The Summit will surely have the attention of the international sporting community, as the decisions made there could have a major impact on the international sporting calendar, and perhaps even the future of international sports.